Another Memorable Achievement Awards Luncheon

by John Iaboni

The Fairmont Royal York Hotel’s venerable Imperial Room was the scene of a standout event on Thursday, November 10th, saluting the 2016 recipients of the Sports Media Canada Achievement Awards. With emcee Paul Hendrick of Leafs TV steering the program to a packed room of almost 300, SMC George Gross accolades went to Frank Gunn (Photography), Lori Ewing (Sportswriting), Jerry Howarth (Broadcasting), Masai Ujiri (Sports Executive), John Badham (Career Achievement), Dave Perkins (Career Achievement), George Dulmage (Posthumous Honour Roll), Graham Leggat (Posthumous Honour Roll) and John Saunders (Posthumous Honour Roll),

The President’s Award was presented to His Honour, Douglas H. Mitchell who was accompanied at the celebration by his wife, Her Honour, The Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. As Luncheon Co-Chairs of this event, Steve McAllister and I would like to extend our congratulations to the recipients and their families. We are enormously proud to carry on the tradition established by luncheon co-founders George Gross and Don Goodwin. In the process we extend our gratitude to our sponsors for making this event possible. The following is a brief recap of the day’s proceedings.

SMC PRESIDENT’S AWARD Recipient: His Honour, Douglas H. Mitchell Introduced by: Steve McAllister, Sports Media Canada President. Trophy presented by: Tom Anselmi, first-ever recipient of the President’s Award in 2009 Intro soundbite Steve McAllister: “The President’s Award recognizes people who’ve had a tremendous impact on the Canadian sports community. Tremendous falls short of really capturing the influence His Honour Douglas H. Mitchell has had on that community over a lifetime filled with creating opportunities and making things better for people across all walks of life in Canadian sport.” Recipient soundbite His Honour Douglas H. Mitchell: “It’s an honour and a privilege to receive the Sports Media Canada President’s Award. I’ve always been supportive of the value of the media, particularly in sports. And although I recognize times change I’m somewhat saddened to see the shift to social media which has reduced the number of those icons who had a great passion for sports and spent a lifetime contributing to the success of sports in our country.”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD OUTSTANDING PHOTOGRAPHY Recipient: Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press (first two-time recipient of this honour, previously in 2005) Introduced by: Graeme Roy, The Canadian Press, Director of News Photography: “Frank knows where to stand; he knows how to execute the photo; he knows how to push the camera and technique to the highest level. He knows how to make photos that earn worldwide play and recognition.” Trophy presented by: George Gross Jr., SMC sponsorship coordinator Recipient soundbite Frank Gunn: “Thank you very much … I really mean it. It’s truly an honour to be recognized by your peers and to put a microphone in front of me for a second time is humbling. The honour is definitely mine to be included in this group.” SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD OUTSTANDING SPORTSWRITING Recipient: Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press Introduced by: Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press, Senior Sports Writer Trophy presented by: Mary Hynes, Host Tapestry on CBC Radio One, wife of the late Randy Starkman (SMC Outstanding Sportswriter honouree in 2010 & Career Achievement recipient in 2012) Intro soundbite Neil Davidson: “My desk is next to hers and on a daily basis I see her juggle writing, reporting, several phones and social media seemingly simultaneously. People respect her and reach out to her because they know she knows her stuff, that she cares about people and that she knows and can tell a good story.” Recipient soundbite Lori Ewing: “It really is overwhelming to look around the room and see so many friends and so many people I respect so much. I’ve been super fortunate to travel around the world with Canadian Press and cover amazing athletes and events. And wherever I go, whatever I’m covering it’s like my Dad (Bill) is there with me.”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD OUTSTANDING BROADCASTING Recipient: Jerry Howarth, Sportsnet Blue Jays Radio Network (previously honoured in this category with Tom Cheek in 2003) Introduced by: John Iaboni, Sports Media Canada Executive VP & Luncheon Co-Chair Trophy presented by: Bob Elliott, SMC Career Achievement recipient in 2008 Intro soundbite John Iaboni: “To slightly amend one of his home run calls let’s start this off by saying ‘yes, sir, let’s admire this one’ and by this one I mean Jerry Howarth. Well prepared and a weaver of stories, Jerry once again showed that while it’s the Blue Jays he broadcasts there are two teams on the field and exceptional plays – or misplays – are to be duly recognized regardless of the uniform.” Recipient soundbite Jerry Howarth: “Most talks begin with how they got here and an appreciation of the award and they end with ‘and lastly I would like to thank my wife.’ Well this talk is going to be brief starts with I’d like to thank my wife. Mary if you could stand up. I appreciate this award appropriately named for my neighbor in Etobicoke? George Gross!”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD SPORTS EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR Recipient: Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors Introduced by: Fred Walker, SMC Career Achievement recipient in 2014 & member SMC Achievement Awards Luncheon Organizing Committee Trophy presented by: Jim Gregory, NHL Executive and Hockey Hall of Fame Builder Intro soundbite Fred Walker: “Masai’s efforts helped turn this entire country to basketball like never before. And how about his work in bringing the NBA All-Star Game here to Toronto just last year! The only thing he couldn’t control was the weather; it was so bloody cold that weekend. To use a little line that the PGA Golf Tour uses, this guy is good.” Recipient soundbite Masai Ujiri: “I want to thank Donald Trump for making Toronto an unbelievable destination for all sports. They used to say ‘oh we don’t want to come here because it’s cold, because of taxes and all that crap.’ Guess what? We’re proud to be here; we’re proud to be in Canada; we’re proud of everything … everything we stand for and the media gives us an unbelievable platform. Unbelievable I would say, one of the biggest markets I think in all sports to express ourselves in every single way.”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD POSTHUMOUS HONOUR ROLL These Plaques all presented by Luncheon co-founder Don Goodwin, 2002 Career Award recipient and all intros given by Danielle Michaud, sports anchor CITY TV Award to: George Dulmage, Sportswriter, accepted by his son Paul Dulmage Intro soundbite Danielle Michaud: “George Dulmage was 13 years old when he covered his first sports story for the Owen Sound Sun Times where his father (Mark) was editor. George Dulmage was named sports editor of The Tely in 1957 but his battle with leukemia forced him to resign. He was 49 years old when he died on November 4th, 1959.” Recipient soundbite Paul Dulmage: “Today on behalf of the Dulmage Family of three generations of media I would like to thank Sports Media Canada for choosing to honour Dad with this award. It’s particularly rewarding to note that the award is named for George Gross because it was my father who hired George from the Toronto City Soccer Club to be The Telegram’s first soccer correspondent.”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD POSTHUMOUS HONOUR ROLL Recipient: Graham Leggat, Broadcaster, Plaque accepted by: Graham Leggat’s daughter, Alexandra Intro soundbite Danielle Michaud: “Graham Leggat’s wit and knowlege made him a natural as soccer gained new-found extensive coverage on TSN’s programming. He became the iconic Canadian soccer commentator as host of popular soccer shows from 1986 to 2000, a run that included TSN’s Soccer News and European Report, Soccer Saturday and World of Soccer.” Recipient soundbite Alexandra Leggat: “When we first arrived here in Canada in 1971 when Dad brought us here this hotel was actually our first home, the Royal York, and I thought, wow, I’m going to love Canada! If my father was here physically he would very graciously and humbly thank you for this award, especially with George Gross’s name on it as he was one of my father’s very dearest and longtime friends.”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD RECIPIENT HONOUR ROLL Recipient: John Saunders, Broadcaster Plaque accepted by: John Saunders’s daughter, Jenna & niece, Stephanie Hughes Intro soundbite Danielle Michaud: “John is most remembered for his nearly 30 years of excellence at ESPN but he worked at city tv from 1980 to ’82 and is a huge part of our proud sports legacy. His massive legion of friends within our industry was forged because he genuinely cared. John’s heart never left the Greater Toronto Area and his native land Canada.” Recipient soundbite Jenna Saunders: “My Dad, although he spent much of his career in the States, was the biggest and proudest Canadian down to his ringtone – which was O Canada; one of his license plates had the Blue Jays logo on it, the other one said Go Canada. I grew up cheering for Canada during the Olympics and right now I’m really happy I have dual citizenship. This would have meant the world to him to be honoured in Canada.”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD CAREER ACHIEVEMENT Recipient: John Badham, Broadcaster, who was unable to attend due to illness; the award was accepted by his sons, Perry & Paul. NOTE: Sadly John Badham died a few weeks later. Award Introduced by: Fred Walker, SMC Career Achievement recipient in 2014 & longtime member SMC Achievement Awards Luncheon Organizing Committee Trophy presented by: Dick Bradbeer, SMC President’s Award recipient in 2010 & longtime member SMC Achievement Awards Luncheon Organizing Committee Intro soundbite Fred Walker: “He was still going at it … perhaps in a race with Bob Cole, both of them trying to catch Vin Scully for longevity in sports broadcasting. In being recognized by Sports Media Canada for his many accomplishments, John joins a couple of other Prairie Boys who are already on our esteemed Honour Roll, Johnny Esaw and Bill Stephenson.” Recipient soundbite Perry Badham: “There’s no greater award or honour than to be recognized by your peers. Dad’s career began in 1957 in a small radio station in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Throughout the following 60 years his work was embodied in the true definition of media. Dad did it all from disc jockey to journalism to broadcasting to reporting and finally play-by-play.”

SMC GEORGE GROSS AWARD CAREER ACHIEVEMENT Recipient: Dave Perkins, Sportswriter Introduced by: His son, Allan Perkins Trophy presented by: Dan Loiselle, SMC President’s Award recipient in 2015 & longtime race announcer at Woodbine Racetrack Intro soundbite Allan Perkins: “Most of you know Dave as one of the more prominent newspaper figures in Canada over the last half decade but I have a special privilege because I get to know him as a father as well. There’s no way I could fit in all he’s done for me into a two-minute speech. I’m so proud of him to be recipient of this award.” Recipient soundbite Dave Perkins: “I suspect I’m up here for the lifetime achievement honour but I contribute half to that young man right there, that’s my greatest lifetime achievement … Thank you son and yes you can use the car tonight. I never thought I’d be worthy of this kind of award but in a world in which a President Trump will welcome the Chicago Cubs to the White House: I’ll believe anything now!”